Those outraged this week over Nevada Union High School cooperating with an undercover sting effort to combat the sale and use of drugs should instead be applauding the fact the high school district listened and took action on the concerns of parents whose children populate its campuses.
An undercover officer from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control posed as a high school student over the past three months to help unearth activity that led to the arrest of six students on various drug charges. But as Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal noted in The Union’s coverage, the cooperative effort actually came about because community members and parents voiced concern in regard to reports of blatant distribution of drugs on campus.
Among the refrains echoed by the students and adults who oppose such undercover action on campus is the fact that these were high school students who simply made a poor choice. We absolutely agree and would add that’s the very reason why it’s so important that such action was taken. If, in fact, the prevalence of drugs being sold or used by students was so pervasive, the school had to act.
“It’s just kids being kids.”
“What’s the big deal? It’s just pot.”
“It’s a complete waste of police efforts.”
No. No. And no, it’s not.
Investigating such activity by questioning students about their own classmates is a difficult task, but having an officer immersed in the culture on campus who can directly testify as a witness against those selling offers a much easier, and likely more solid, case to make.
For those who dismiss marijuana as a “harmless drug,” it’s important to note that it remains illegal without a prescription for medicinal use in California and that the undercover operative purchased marijuana, along with hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms and negotiated the sale of Ecstasy and prescription medications.
Although they might just be kids — five of the six were arrested as juveniles — it certainly does not excuse their behavior or the potential impact on other students on campus, even those who have not used drugs or alcohol. After all, what kind of outrage would the community show if these were not students, but adults selling drugs to the kids on campus?
“I want to believe that the vast majority of our students really don’t want to condone this type of activity and really find it quite intolerable,” NU Principal Mike Blake told The Union this week. “ … and I think (the undercover investigations) go a long ways and help establish a different culture and climate at NU.”
For that to happen, however, there’s going to be more of an education required than that offered on school campuses.
Parents and families need not only to understand the legality of drug use and its crime and punishment potential but also the impact drugs or alcohol can have in impairing a young person’s ability to achieve his or her full potential, as well as actual health and quality of life issues that so often accompany an increased likelihood of addiction.
Fortunately, western Nevada County has a wealth of resources to which students, parents, administrators and teachers can turn to learn the preventative steps that can be taken toward the change in its culture the school community says it seeks. But it’s the next steps taken that will be the key in meeting that goal.